Technology is constantly changing and creating new innovative ways for people to connect with one another. One of the most common uses of new technologies, especially by teenagers, is social media. 

While initially little was known about how social media affects teens, the impact of social media on teens has begun to be understood. Research on social media and teens has indicated that technology may increase peer pressure and bullying while also leading to increased substance use and mental health concerns

The Rise of Technology

Since the beginning of the public use of the internet in 1991, people have found new ways to use this technology. As technology has expanded and become more accessible, teen internet use has skyrocketed. 

With teen media consumption on the rise, companies are more frequently cashing in on the media influence on teens. With industry reports deeming teens the most valuable customers, targeted marketing to teens is unlikely to go away. Today’s teens, known as Generation Z, are, as a group, overwhelmingly more connected through technology than generations past. 

To understand the increase in teen technology use, statistics can be used to paint a clear picture of the new youth culture. Some important Generation Z technology statistics to know include:

Teens and Social Media

As teen social media statistics have indicated, nearly all teens use social media and most believe their social media use has either a neutral or a positive effect on them. Despite a minority reporting negative effects of social media, some teens indicate negative outcomes, including:

  • 45% of teens feel overwhelmed by online drama
  • 43% of teens feel pressured to maintain a particular outward appearance online
  • 37% of teens feel pressured to receive virtual “likes”

Infographic that provides statistics on teens and scoial media

Despite acknowledging these negative impacts, teen social media use continues to rise. While Facebook once dominated the market, teens have branched out to other platforms. Some of the most popular teen social media sites include:

  • Snapchat
  • Youtube
  • Instagram

Infographic with the logos of popular teen social media sites

Social Media and Peer Pressure

Teen peer pressure is an issue regardless of social media use. However, when combined, social media and peer pressure can be especially damaging. With 59% of teens reporting that they have been bullied online, also known as cyberbullying, the potential for teens to feel pressure from social media is clear. 

Peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol was once thought to be only within high school social gatherings, but social media has created a new mechanism that encourages teen substance abuse. Studies have found that as many as 75% of teens felt pressured to drink alcohol and use drugs after seeing their friends post these activities online. 

Access to Drugs

Social media doesn’t just pressure teens to use substances, it provides a platform for online drug dealers. In some cases, this may mean social media drug dealing, in which a person connects with someone they know, or a stranger, to set up a drug deal. In other cases, it may mean teens buying drugs online, often through social media

Whether purchased through social media connections or bought from the “dark web,” teen drug use has been made easier with the rise of technology. Due to the subversive nature of online drug dealing, researchers have struggled to estimate how many drugs are sold and to whom. Despite not having this data, news reports of overdose deaths caused by substances bought online show that this is a very real problem. 

Social Media and Mental Health

Social media exposes teens to more than drugs. The compound effects of peer pressure and unrealistic expectations of life facilitated through social media may cause an increase in teen mental health concerns. 

While many culprits have been blamed for the increase in mental health concerns among young people, social media and mental health statistics clearly show that technology plays a large role. 

For example:

  • Researchers who limited study participants’ use of social media to only 30 minutes each day found that after three weeks, participants felt less depressed and less lonely
  • In another study, researchers found that young women felt worse about their appearance and were dissatisfied with their bodies after viewing social media profiles of women they deemed as more attractive 

Research on social media and mental health has found a connection between social media use and increased social anxiety, feelings of isolation and feelings of loneliness. Some have deemed that the measures of popularity created by social media such as friend counts and “likes” have contributed to a rise in depression. Others claim that seeing other people having fun and spending time with friends through social media can lead to feelings of isolation and inadequacy related to depression

Considering how much time teens spend online, it is particularly concerning that as little as two hours online has been linked to an increase in risk factors for suicide. When the time spent online rises to five hours or more, the increase in suicide risk factors rises to 71%

Whether the death of a peer or a celebrity, how the media talks about suicide can impact the potential of others to commit suicide in the wake. The way that social media allows these potentially harmful presentations of suicide to proliferate may make the risk of contagion more severe.  

Does Your Teen Need Addiction Treatment?

With the rise in use of social media and the associated spike in mental health and substance use concerns, it can be difficult to know what to do if you or a loved one is struggling. 

To understand whether your teen needs addiction treatment, you can:

If your teen struggles with substance abuse, it may be time to consider teen addiction treatment. Considering teen drug rehab can be very difficult on parents and guardians but ultimately could save a life. Recovery is possible and doesn’t have to wait. Young people can stop using drugs and enter recovery. To learn more about treatment options available for teens, reach out to a representative at The Recovery Village.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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